I want to draw your attention to an incredibly helpful post by Randy Susan Meyers at Beyond the Margins. I think it hits many of the key areas where critique groups can go off the rails and how to respond to these issues.
MANAGING CRITIQUE IN WRITING WORKSHOPS
“No child could possibly be happy about her father moving out!”
The above was said to me at a writing workshop, in a discussion about my then unpublished novel (it eventually became The Murderer’s Daughters.) The ‘child’ in question lived with a selfish, sarcastic, angry mother and an oft-drunk “mooning around” father. In the questioned scene this 10-year-old protagonist voices guilty relief at finding a less troubling atmosphere after her father moved out. A workshop member, adamant in his belief that no child would ever feel relief at her father leaving the house, expressed insistence bordering on disbelief (that I would write such an emotion!) bordering on disdain (that I would be able to dredge up such an emotion!)
Precious minutes slipped away as the group debated this point. The workshop operated under the “in-the-box” silenced writer rule (which most of the time I agree with) so I could only listen as time ticked by as the debate raged.
Should this point have been up for grabs? (And should anyone wag their finger when giving critique?) This is problem I’ve found in writing workshops. Let’s call it the ‘scrim’ factor. Aside from the craft of the work, the plotting, the plausibility, believable motives, and the ability of the writer to engender suspension-of-disbelief, when (if ever) is a character’s ‘belief system’ up for judgment—especially if the judgment is made based on the belief system of a fellow workshop member?
READ THE REST HERE.